The migrant crisis

Dave Jolivet (on page 14) and Deacon Frank Lucca (on page 17) directly address the horrors which the immigrant crisis in Europe have brought to one concrete Syrian family. The death of Aylan Kurdit on a beach in the Aegean Sea brings to mind the oft-quoted saying, “The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!”

Maybe the death of Aylan will help move hearts from viewing the suffering of so many people around the world as mere statistics and help them to see that these are catastrophes which are avoidable. As Dave wrote, due to the power that sin holds over us, it is likely that such deaths will continue, but he also held out the hope that we, each of us individually, can help work together to change this world, by putting our Christian love into action.

Dave also evokes the judgment that we will face from God when we die. Will God be asking if we maintained our country’s economy by ignoring the suffering of others? We know that He said, “Whatsoever you did to the least of My brothers, that you did unto Me” (Mt 25:40). Do we really want to risk our souls (just so we can have riches which we can’t take with us)?

The Catholic Church is not demanding that the United States and the rest of the developed world take in everyone from the Third World. Rather, the consistent teaching of the popes has been that we are all responsible for the whole earth and that we need to see what we can do so that people do not feel the need (due to violence which directly threatens their lives or due to extreme poverty which could kill them more slowly) to emigrate. 

Pope Benedict XVI in his 2013 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees wrote, “In the current social and political context, however, even before the right to migrate, there is need to reaffirm the right not to emigrate, that is, to remain in one’s homeland; as St. John Paul II stated: ‘It is a basic human right to live in one’s own country. However these rights become effective only if the factors that urge people to emigrate are constantly kept under control.’”

The factors at the moment involve: (in the Middle East and North Africa) fear of being killed by ISIS or by other forces in the variety of wars going on there; (in Central America) fear of being killed by gangs (e.g., Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world — even higher than Afghanistan!); fear of starvation or malnutrition in a variety of countries. 

Pope Francis, in his 2014 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, wrote, “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”

If we can’t love them in this life, we will have a problem in the next.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts